Dan and I awoke on our final day in Chaumont, a mixture of excitement and dread churning our stomachs. We sat down to breakfast as usual, cleared the shower of our toiletries, and made sure there was no sock left behind. Our train to Paris was scheduled to depart around 4:00 PM, and while I was excited to return to my beloved city, I was not ready to leave Mamie and Papy just yet. It was wonderful getting to know them a little better, and I think we were all pretty bummed that the first leg of the trip was already drawing to a close.
We spent the afternoon playing games and chatting around the table, and went out for lunch later in Chaumont’s centre-ville. We dined at Ristorante Del Arte, a cute little chain serving up the fresh flavors of Italy. We enjoyed wine, delicious pasta, and yes, more laughs.
We spent a little more time at the house, where Mamie and Papy shared a few tips and printed out some helpful guides and maps for a stress-free trip to Paris. We were already sad to go, but this little kindness made me want to unpack my bags and stay in Chaumont for another week.
It’s a good thing Chaumont was our first destination. If we had ended our trip here, I might have given in to my overwhelming desire to cancel my travel plans and just stay in town a little longer. But as it stood, Paris was our next destination, and it was not something to be missed.
Mamie and Papy saw us off at the train station, giving us hugs and kisses and helping us to figure out which of the three platforms would serve our train. As if the incredible trip home was not enough, they also gave us a very generous parting gift: cash to book seats on a Seine river cruise. Are you kidding me!?
That pleasant little surprise helped to the alleviate the sadness of watching Mamie walk out toward the exit. Plus, I don’t think we’ll be able to stay away for long! I have dreams of a future road trip around France, including stops in Chaumont, Colmar, Provence and more, so we will be back in the country before you can say “baguette.”
The train ride to Paris was quiet and a tiny bit stressful, due to the fact that we weren’t entirely sure we were in the right train car! Our seats were taken, or so we thought, but we didn’t want to say so and find out that we were the ones in the wrong car! So we sat in a couple of random seats and crossed our fingers every time we pulled into a new station.
We made it into Paris without much of a struggle, and then we were off into the big scary Metro system…which turned out not to be so scary after all! Thanks to the Paris Metro app, navigating the metro was a breeze, though doing it with two suitcases, a backpack and an overnight bag was another story. We finally emerged onto the street near Hotel de Ville, turning around to figure out where to go next, when I saw it.
I knew our Airbnb apartment was close to the cathedral, but I wasn’t expecting to see it before we even dropped off our luggage! We walked up the street and around the corner to our rental, located on Rue Sainte-Croix de la Bretonnerie, in the 3rd arrondissement. And waited. And waited. Our host was late to meet us, the door code we’d been given did not work, and the person I’d been instructed to text upon arrival maintained total silence as we clogged up the tiny sidewalk with our luggage, feeling like a couple of tacky tourists.
Our irritation, thankfully, was short-lived. Once we finally made it inside the apartment, we opened all the windows, lay out on the bed, and took a few moments to just cool off. Then we were off, the sunlit glow of Notre Dame calling to us. It was a short walk, past trendy cafes, the elaborate Hotel de Ville, and over the Seine River…
…and we were there, gazing up at one of my favorite spots in whole city.
And then I actually cried. I sometimes feel that my entire life is leading up to some grand move to France, and this trip in particular is something I literally have dreamed about since I was a little girl. What could be better than Paris with the person you love? Seeing all of our dreaming and planning come to fruition was enormously satisfying, and when I tried to describe this feeling of sublime bliss to Dan, I got that telltale lump in my throat and the happy tears began.
Dan, bless his heart, took it all in stride, dismissing my tearful apologies and pulling me closer as we continued around the back of the cathedral. He’s a good one. By the time we wandered back out to the front, the tears had subsided and we stood for a while, just admiring Notre Dame, bathed in the light of the setting sun.
As the sun dipped toward the rooftops of Paris, the refreshing spring breeze shifted into an unwelcome chill. We left Notre Dame in search of two things: jackets and food. The extra cardigans I’d thrown in my suitcase would not stand up to the unexpected cold, and Dan felt out of place in his gray Nike sweatshirt, something brought on, I’m sure, by our uncomfortable wait in the chic streets of the lower Marais. The jackets, it turned out, would have to wait one more day. As we had arrived on a Sunday evening, most if not all of the shops had closed for the night, and it looked like the only eateries still open were bars and tourist restaurants. You know, the ones with English menus, photos of all the entrees, and an overly friendly waitperson trying to coax passing tourists into the dining area.
That’s right, we ate at a tourist restaurant. I’m talking red velvet banquettes, Elvis drifting from the speakers, and Notre Dame just down the street. We ordered a bottle of rose to toast our first night in Paris, and while the food itself was rather bland, the evening was not.
We stopped at Notre Dame one more time before heading “home” for the evening, relieved to be in Paris at last, and already dreaming of the adventures still to come.